The Petrie Family Applesauce Cake

My grandmother, Mary Lou, always brings a delicious applesauce cake to family birthdays.  The cake is hearty and wholesome and it is dressed with a decadent penuche frosting — and often a small bouquet of wildflowers.

I recently asked her to share the recipe with me and she sent along some family history as well.

"It is an old family recipe from your grandfather Landon’s mother, Lillian Yarrington. She likely learned to make it from her mother. Lillian
was a southern girl from the state of Virginia. Merton Petrie met her
there as he accompanied a load of cattle by rail from Wisconsin to
Virginia. He brought her back as a bride to Lake Geneva.

There was no recipe of the applesauce
cake to follow. Mom would put in a little of this and that by guess and
practice, so the cake was never exactly the same each time . I used to
watch her do this. One day we asked her daughter, Mary, to try to
determine what her measurements were as she was making another cake so
we could duplicate it. That resulted in the cake we make today."

Applesauce cake


2 C sugar
.5 C shortening
1 square baking chocolate
2 C applesauce
3 tsp baking soda (dissolved in 1 tbl hot water)
2.5 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp nutmeg
1 C raisins


Preheat oven to 350F, grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and spices.

Heat the applesauce and add the baking chocolate, allowing it to melt.  Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and add to the heated applesauce. 

In a separate bowl, combine the shortening and sugar — beat until light and fluffy.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the applesauce mixture to the shortening and sugar.  Combine but do not over mix.  Add the raisins.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool while you make the frosting.

Penuche Frosting


.5 C butter
1 C brown sugar
.25 C milk
2.25 C confectioners’ sugar


Melt butter. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook until the it pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan.

Boil for two minutes. Stir in milk; heat to boiling, remove from heat,
stir in confectioners’ sugar. Beat smooth with electric beaters.

Spread onto the cake immediately.  It will set as soon as it is spread.

Thank you for preserving this delicious piece of family history grandmother!

show hide 5 comments

emily - just wanted to say thanks for posting this great recipe! i’m always on the lookout for truly good egg free desserts, as my daughter is allergic. and this cake fits the bill! loved it!

Gemma - What a rough lot for your little girl! I’m glad to have helped add another dessert to her menu.

Sophie - What a great story behind this family recipe :), I’m rarely able to get the measurements for my grandmother’s recipes either. I’d like to include this recipe on our blog, please let me know if you’re interested.
Sophie, Key Ingredient Chief Blogger

Gemma - Hi Sophie, Thanks for your interest. Feel free to link to this post, but because it is a family recipe, I’d rather not have it reproduced in full.
Thanks and happy holidays!

L. Petrie - So nice to find this recipe. My maiden name was Petrie and my grandparents whom I never met came from Scotland to the USA years ago then my Dad’s family moved to the Canadian West then my Dad moved on to Nova Scotia where I live now. Nice to think I may be related to this grandmother.

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